• 9,000 waiting for more homes, whilst 4,000 private properties sit empty
• MP calls for Government to take action to free up empty homes, regulate the lettings market and better inform students of their rights and options
As Newcastle welcomes back 52,000 students, the annual scramble to get last minute housing sorted will begin. Many will end up paying above market rates for poor quality housing.
Announcing a housing campaign for more access to affordable housing, Chi said:
“Today I am launching a campaign to bring more empty homes back on the market now and speed the building of new affordable homes in the future.
I’m proud to be the MP for a city with two great Universities, the number one city of choice for students. And I think it is part of my job to make sure they are not exploited by landlords. Certainly, the presence of 50,000 students in Jesmond, Fenham and Heaton has a big impact on the local housing market.
Housing associations tell me that landlords often prefer to leave their houses empty in the hope of eventually attracting student tenants who will pay high rents for low standard accommodation.
Students need access to greater information and guidance on the rental market to help them avoid rip off rents, which drive prices up for everybody. If landlords continue to view students as a cash cow that will pay above the market rate, then they will be less likely to rent their homes to others.
I will be looking at better ways to make use of the existing housing stock, and helping local people to set up self-help housing groups. I will also continue to encourage the building of new affordable homes across Newcastle and pressuring the new Housing Minister to do more.”
Chi is welcoming comments and suggestions on what needs to be done to get empty housing on the market again – and if there have examples of houses standing empty for long periods, send them to Chi.
Housing is the number one issue that people come to Chi with. There are over nine thousand people on the Your Homes Newcastle waiting list. Yet there are 4,000 homes currently sitting empty. 99% of those privately rented. So almost all available empty housing in Newcastle is privately rented.
The Government talks a lot about housing, but does little. House building is down, homelessness is up, and rents are at a record high.
The number of empty homes in Newcastle should be of great concern to everyone, not just landlords. Empty properties can devalue local neighbouring homes, look unsightly, attract squatters and vandals and harbour pests and vermin as Newcastle City Council environmental offices know to their cost.
Instead of helping councils bring properties back into the market, the Government is making it harder. Ministers have made it more difficult for councils to issue an order to bring an empty home back into use and increased the period from six months to two years. It should be easier for councils to use their powers to help provide more houses, not harder.
1) Click here to download Labour’s Policy Review document, “Private Rented Housing”
2) Data on housing in Newcastle is available here: http://england.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/housing_databank
4) Newcastle Council’s accreditation and guidance schemes for landlords provide incentives and benefits for good landlords, but that does not require them to actually rent out empty properties. Chi is not attacking good landlords whose properties stand empty for short periods. But there is a real problem if so many people cannot find a decent place to live, with so many empty houses available.
These accreditation schemes should have an element of ‘use it or lose it’. Landlords should only be entitled to these accreditation benefits if they are willing to rent their properties to those who need homes.
5) The Council regularly run housing advice sessions, and this week launched a public debate on ‘Delivering Fairer Housing for All’.